Tag Archives: household

What is domestic fairness in the Home?

The dynamics in which individuals, and partners choose to run their households is as diverse as the billions of people there on living on this earth.  Some might make the strong stance that everything must be split equally and evenly between both people.  This would include such responsibilities as, the division of chores, financial expenditures, daycare, and more.

However, I do not feel this approach is necessarily true.  It cannot be fair to demand domestic fairness within households, but then impose one possible method to ensure that equality is achieved.  As with everything in life, people should have the freedom to choose whatever they feel is fair in their home.  Lisa Belkin states in her article, When mom and dad share it all, “Gender should not determine the division of labor at home” (Belkin 2).  To me this is a perfect answer to such a convoluted question.  Domestic fairness in the home happens when both parties feel it is fair, period.  Whichever way they feel comfortable with dividing up the tasks, should be solely up to them.  The crucial point being, that society should not be able to rear its ugly head and influence the decision making process.  Gender should be left out of the equation, and moves should be made based on those particular individuals comfort level and personal desires.

Though, the ultimate question may be, can there ever really be 100% domestic equality in a home?  Is it ever really possible to maintain fairness in the home all of the time? The combining of two separate lives is a difficult task.  It has to be known that sacrifices will be made and following personal desires are not always an option.

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Equal parenting: What is fairness?

In reading The New York Times’s article “When Mom and Dad Share It All” by Lisa Belkin, I could not help but think about whether or not the “equal shared parenting” described here is really the best option in a household. It seems that what we have read about and what tends to be posed in literature when it comes to the splitting of parental roles are the two extremes: the traditional model with the maternal figure being the primary or sole caretaker and this “equal parenting” with a 50-50 split between the two parties. An example of this latter strategy can be seen in the Vachon family, where “They would work equal hours, spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home. Neither would be the keeper of the mental to-do lists; neither of their careers would take precedence” (Belkin).

But what if one has a naturally more demanding career and does not have as much free time? Or what if one person loves cooking and another hates it? Should these things still be evenly split no matter what? Perhaps rather than splitting each task itself in half, tasks can be split according to skill set or flexibility. Even in just remembering that long list that we came up with as a class of household tasks one must oversee, it seems inefficient to try to split every single one up, and potentially unfair if it puts more of a burden on one parent to meet those needs.

Judith Warner supports this notion and even takes it a step forward in her Time post “Equal Parenting: Why We Need to Rethink a 50-50 Split.” She talks about how, if one partner wants to do more of the caretaking role, should they not be allowed to because it would break that balance? Or if the breadwinner of the family — and in her case she talks about instances where the wife inhabits that role — feels they are unable to dedicate their full half, does that make them an inadequate parent? I think that rather than “equality” necessarily, we should focus on the concept of “fairness” when it comes to the matter of shared parenting.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Warner, Judith. “Equal Parenting: Why We Need to Rethink a 50-50 Split.” TIME.com. TIME, 1 June 2012. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Pine-Sol’s Cleaning Fantasy

This Pine-Sol television commercial shows a woman coming home to find a muscular, shirtless guy mopping her floor. The screen then pans to this female character blissfully lounging in her bed as he continues to mop, surrounded by bottles of Pine-Sol. The campaign uses the almost ubiquitous methods of objectification and sex appeal to play to the potential fantasies of buyers, though in this case the typical situation is reversed between genders. In this particular case, the male is being objectified, and at no point is his full body shown. Instead, the camera focuses on his torso and arms. Additionally, in order to further create the environment of a fantasy, effects such as overly dramatic music and lighting and panning of the camera are used.

The commercial can be viewed from two different perspectives, with one as reinforcing gender norms and one as a progressive step towards equality in gender portrayal. On the one hand, while this is playing to a female sexual fantasy rather than a male one, it can be seen as reinforcing the fact that it is not typical/not the role of the man to be doing housework – i.e. why it would be a “fantasy.” Additionally, the marketers know/suggest that the primary target audience of these ads and subsequently the product, are women, and the use of a heteronormative fantasy continues to reinforce “the assignment of household work to women” (Cowan 151) which, as Cowan shows, was continually supported throughout the twentieth century, and the idea that they are the ones both buying and using household-related products.

On the other hand, the fact that advertisers are willing to play to a woman’s fantasy rather than a man’s for once is an exception itself. Additionally, this ad can also be seen as progressive as African-American actors are used to portray these characters, rather than the typical white characters found in almost every other advertisement. If anything, the commercial is atypical and will certainly catch people’s attention. If in this process a discussion is begun on gender roles/race, then I think it is certainly a positive thing.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 151-247. Print.

Big Question: For What Are We Responsible?

In the essay “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women,” bell hooks confronts the problem of disjunction within feminist movements. She discusses how mainstream feminism has alienated women of color because of a perception that aspects of their culture are counter to feminist causes–for instance, that black women’s refusal to self-victimize excluded them from feminism. Different groups face different oppressions; yet, hooks points out, mainstream feminism struggles to realize that feminism looks different for different groups.

Last week, Politico Magazine published an article subtitled “How Michelle Obama became a feminist’s nightmare.” The author charged the First Lady with anti-feminist offenses including “gardening,” “tending to wounded soldiers” and “reading to children.” Michelle Obama, the author argued, should be a politically involved activist, not a “mom-in-chief.” She has an obligation to the women of America; she should represent all that feminism has achieved.

But to what extent is one woman obligated to act on behalf of a nation? Is Michelle Obama single-handedly responsible for defying all norms? The demand for a woman to embody a specified role, without room for choice in what she can accept or reject, is constricting and regressive. As bell hooks argues in “Sisterhood,” feminism must account for the complexity of individual experiences. Michelle Obama’s feminism may not be Hillary Clinton’s feminism, but their experiences are equally valid.

With that in mind, are we responsible for making choices with an eye towards what will most benefit women as a population? Or are we free to pick and choose which paths to follow? How much must we consider our individual choices in the context of society?

Cited:

hooks, bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women.” No. 23, Socialist-Feminism: Out of the Blue (Summer, 1986), pp. 125-138.

Cottle, Michelle. “Leaning Out.” Politico Magazine, November 21, 2013. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/11/leaning-out-michelle-obama-100244.html?ml=m_a3_1

A Woman Cleaning? Shocking…

Here is yet another traditionally gendered commercial from the house cleaning industry (surprise, surprise). In this ad, a cute puppy, woman, and her vacuum are terrorized by the frightening dirt monster that arises from the woman’s carpet. By using Resolve deep clean carpet cleaning powder, the woman is able to persevere over her dirty carpet and is free to happily play with her puppy on the spotless shag.

The cleaning powder advertisement reflects cultural norms surrounding the gendered division of labor in the home, a division of labor that has not changed since the 1900s despite the numerous household technological advances described in Ruth Schwartz Cowan’s “Household Technology and Household Work between 1900 and 1940.” Naturally, it is a woman who is found cleaning the carpet; Resolve cleaning company feels no need to challenge the traditional belief that women are responsible for the upkeep of the household. But unlike most cleaning commercials, Resolve’s features a male presence (both the narrator and the dust monster are men). The husky quality of the narrator’s deeply rich and masculine voice conveys clear authority; of course a male authoritative figure would help market a product in an ad clearly directed towards women (because not even women listen to other women).

The portrayal of gender in the commercial is merely a mirror of societal norms, as the assumption of the female role of house organizer and caregiver is discussed in Lisa Belkin’s article “When Mom and Dad Share it All.” Perhaps by itself, the commercial is not so alarming; but when every household product advertised on TV is automatically marketed alongside traditional gender roles, there is some serious cause for alarm (which is much more worrying than Resolve’s dirt monsters).

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times 15 June 2008: 1-15. Print.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 151-247. Print.

What are the future consequences of gender-neutral child rearing (or lack thereof)?

Karin Martin analyzes the advice given to parents on childrearing through books, web sites, and magazines. She notes that many of these sources advocate gender-neutral child rearing—by which she means “these advisors say that parents should not only permit but encourage children to move beyond gender stereotypes for their own good and/or the good of society”—only minimally or not at all, and eleven of them specifically provide negative commentary on this practice (Martin 468). I think the ramifications of gendered child rearing can be seen when the children in question become parents themselves. Lisa Belkin describes one couple who divide some of their tasks “along traditional gender lines. The point, [the parents] say, is not to spit at tradition for the heck of it but rather to think things through instead of defaulting to gender” (Belkin 10). Yet, the parents must have acquired their preference for gendered tasks somehow, and this can become problematic when, for example, a husband’s lower standard for cleanliness reflects poorly on his wife. I think in order to have truly equal parenting and domestic partnership, changes need to be made in how we raise our children, with more emphasis on gender-neutral parenting.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” 2008.

Martin, Karin A. “William Wants A Doll. Can He Have One? Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender-Neutral Child Rearing.” Gender & Society 19.4 (2005): 456-79.

What is equality in the household?

I believe equality in the household is a sentiment and not a number. Two parents may divide up hours of housework and childcare exactly even and still not be equals. A true sense of equality in the household begins with a simple acknowledgement – that you are my partner – and a fundamental, mutual drive towards an agreed-upon goal. Certainly, this is easier said than done; in fact, reaching an absolute equilibrium may be extremely difficult. A vast amount of implicit respect for one’s partner is essential for a “shared” system to work. Lisa Belkin writes about a couple who uses a computer chart to help them adhere to their “shared parenting” plan (Belkin 7). While concrete measures like this are undoubtedly helpful in sticking to any goal, in no way is it a guarantee of equal dedication to tasks or respect for the other. Factors that affect this sense of respect do not just exist within the household or the relationship; they are largely societal. Katrin Bennhold points to increasing cases of “daddy leave” in Sweden as proof of greater equality in the household. However, I think the bigger force at play here is the tacit, growing acceptance of men’s doing domestic work – a growing legitimization of parenting as real labor and as both a man and a woman’s duty. While societal biases and stereotypes are a huge hindrance in the quest for domestic equality, it can certainly be achieved. True equality, though, cannot be measured.

 

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times Magazine. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web.

Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” NYTimes. The New York Times, 9 June 2010. Web.